Will we ever get to a common European policy on migrants and refugees? What influence do new political trends have on what is decided – or not decided – in Brussels? NuoveRadici.World has discussed this with Claude Moraes, the British Asian member of the European Parliament who presides the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee.
Of the seven legislative proposals issued by the European Commission in 2016, none have yet been approved by the Council of the European Union. Although everyone agrees that the existing Common European Asylum System should be significantly reformed, this has not been possible yet. According to Claude Moraes MEP, who has conveyed his colleagues’ frustration about the EU Member States’ political inertia to the Austrian Presidency of the EU, «This political stalemate has scuttled the European Commission’s proposals to improve the collective management of migration and the reform of the Common European Asylum System», he explained. «Although provisional agreements were reached under the Bulgarian EU Presidency on the Reception Conditions Directive, as well as on the Qualification, the Union Resettlement Framework, and the Eurodac Regulations» he added, «none of these have yet been officially approved by the Council. Moreover, negotiations on some texts, which had already been agreed by the European Parliament and the Council, have now been reopened, unnecessarily delaying their approval. This is the case for negotiations on the text of the EU Asylum Agency Regulation, which had already been concluded, but have now been reopened by the Commission upon the Council’s request. The resulting delay in the approval of this legislation will negatively impact the processing of applications and reception of still high numbers of refuges and asylum seekers in Southern European Member States, like Italy for instance».
Claude Moraes is very familiar with this issue. The son of Indian migrants, he was born in Yemen before his parents were deported back to India because of his father’s journalism. When Claude was four years old the family moved to Scotland where his father continued his studies. But not long after that, he and his brothers were deported from the UK with their mother as they didn’t have the documents required by Her Majesty’s Home Office. Finally, when Claude was eight years old he was able to join his father back in Scotland and the family was reunited. Of growing up in Dundee in the seventies, he remembers mostly the cold and the bleakness. He then trained as a lawyer to defend the rights of refugees and migrants before getting into politics and being elected to the European Parliament in 1999. There, he continued his work becoming a leading light at the Parliament on issues relating to migration and asylum. So, we also asked him for his thoughts on the delayed recast of the Dublin Regulation and the asylum system.
«The Member States have given political priority to security measures for enhancing border control and the conclusion of agreements with African countries to stop migrant arrivals», observed Moraes. «This is a very myopic approach that fails to establish the backbone of a European common asylum system for the long-term management of migration. The European Parliament has done its job, now it is up to the Member States to finish the work. But it will be very difficult for the Member States to reach a political agreement because, although they could easily overcome the impasse with qualified majority voting at the Council, they are instead seeking a unanimous decision. And this will be virtually impossible because any political agreement on the pressing issue of migration is elusive, as was demonstrated by the Global Compact on Migration».
As the “emergency” is over and migrant arrivals have fallen, shouldn’t this be the time to enhance and strengthen the collective governance of migration in Europe so that no Member State will have to deal with this issue alone again? «The European Union is the sum of its Member States», reflected Claude Moraes. «We are facing a double ideological paradox underpinning the current political stalemate in Brussels. The sovereignist forces in power today have always rejected proposals coming from Brussels. They are blocking the reforms at the Council, while, paradoxically, seeking new alliances, or “axes”, between Member States in order to share the management of the migration “problem”». According to the British MEP, «What we are witnessing is “white” Europe supporting freedom of movement for its citizens within the Union while closing the door to those coming from the outside, especially from Africa. This is the result of nationalist policies aimed at defending cultural identity, or identity politics». Thus for Moraes «it is clear and inevitable that Europe is becoming more racist. Yet, as was the case for the left before, now it is the European right that will have to find a way of squaring its ideology with a demographic reality whereby immigrants play an ever more important role in supporting Europe’s anaemic economic growth».
After the closure of the ports in Italy last Summer, Claude Moraes declared: «You can run away from the problem… make a political football of migrants and…play a game between Member States. But remember…although the number of sea arrivals in Italy is the lowest since 2013…migration will not stop. We must show leadership…This is not some sort of dream: it is the obvious imperative…we must pursue the management of migration. If we do not do this, then what is actually the future of the European Union?».